Saturday, January 29, 2011

happiness: gathering up the leftover fragments

I have been working on a sermon on the subject of happiness this week, taken from the beatitudes (Matthew 5. 1-12) and the prophetic summary of Micah (6. 6-8). I have asked friends and congregation members to write about their experiences of happiness and the responses have been amazing in their depth and diversity. All of this has led me to reflect on the same question---what is most personal is also most universal---and so I record here a few experiences of happiness. Set aside, for a moment the distinctions between happiness and blessing, and simply go to some of your own places of happiness. These have been some of mine, in no particular order:

1. The births of our children
2. Discovering a great restaurant: lately, Bistro le Bon, on Central Avenue in Charlotte
3. The annual Joke Show on A Prairie Home Companion
4. Making coffee for my wife each morning
5. An annual Academy Awards party with one set of good friends; an annual Groundhog Day party with another
6. Placing a prayer in the crevice of the Western Wall in Jerusalem
7. Finding a good doctor and a good dentist
8. Seeing really good people move into positions of influence: for example a friend who has been a Judge and will be again
9. The Office (my younger daughter got me into this) and Modern Family (ditto)
10. Waking up in the cool mountain air of our cabin in Western North Carolina
11. Holding the first book that I wrote in my hands
12. Attending the Phi Beta Kappa induction of our older daughter and a conference volleyball championship to watch our younger daughter
13. Meeting Nanci Griffith, Darius Rucker, Elvis Costello and Darrell Scott
14. Being ordained as an Elder, and participating in the laying on of hands of a number of friends over the years
15. Anytime I am watching a Coen Brothers movie.
16. Sitting in the open skies at Merlefest
17. Walking around the lake at Junaluska
18. Preaching at Duke Chapel, Marsh Chapel at Boston U, and the Upper Room Chapel
19. Walking on the Great Wall of China
20. Eating at Country's BBQ with my family in Columbus
21. Seeing friends at Annual Conference every year
22. Watching a Braves game in Atlanta; bonus, eating at the Varsity beforehand
23. A lectionary group that met at Wolf Laurel above Asheville the week before Labor Day each year
24. Picking blueberries on top of a mountain in Maine last summer
25. Anticipating the graduation of Jacques Lamour from Huntingdon College this May, particularly the vision of him walking across the stage
26. Participating in a panel discussion with Paul Farmer and in a lunch conversation with Elie Wiesel
27. Celebrating my 30th wedding anniversary earlier this month
28. The thrill of preaching on Christmas Eve and Easter Sunday
29. Memories of silent retreats at Dayspring
30. Receiving an honorary doctorate at the United Methodist University of Liberia
31. Grilling in our backyard
32. The first time I ever participated in a Day of Service, at St. Timothy's
33. The Rabbis I have known, especially Mel and Murray
34. A few close friends with whom I talk almost every week
35. Building an outdoor cement soccer field in Cochabamba, Bolivia
36. A writer's workshop with Eugene Peterson at a monastery in Minnesota
37. A seminar in Maryland with Ed Friedman, of blessed memory
38. SEC football and ACC basketball
39. Committed and joyful members of churches all along the way
40. To be continued...


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